The Open Adoption Experience
Despite what many see as benefits, you may have some questions and concerns about open adoption
because it probably is different than the adoptions you knew about as you grew up. This book addresses your doubts and apprehensions in a realistic and balanced way. We believe open adoptions have much to offer birth parents, adoptive parents, and especially adopted children, but these benefits are not realized simply by meeting each other and exchanging names
and addresses. Nor are they achieved if you mistrust or mislead each other out of fear.
We believe open adoption is more a relationship than an institution or a process. When open adoptions are successful, it is not because the institution is well designed but because the people involved have worked hard at the relationships. It is our belief that the relationships in adoption are dynamic; they change over time. Encounters that begin tentatively may blossom into close relationships, whereas others that are entered into eagerly become limited by time and distance. Your adoption may not be as open as many of the examples we discuss in this book. However, you can still benefit from seeing how fully disclosed adoptions can work. Yours may be one of those that evolves into a more open adoption--either because you decide to increase the level of contact with each other or because your child wants more contact--and you need to be prepared for that.
But even if your adoption never becomes fully disclosed, you can apply much of what we say to your own situation. You will need the same skills and attitudes to negotiate the exchange of pictures or gifts that you will need to negotiate visits, for we believe open adoption is as much an attitude as a practice: to work well, it must be felt in your heat There are adoptions in which birth families
and adoptive families have direct contact with each other out of a sense of obligation rather than desire, adoptions in which the birth families and adoptive families are mistrustful of each other, and adoptions in which one family wishes the other would disappear. But there are many adoptions in which adoptive parents and birth parents are finding a deep, emotionally intimate bond due to the love they share for the same human being. Some of these families have direct contact with each other and some do not. These families, many of whom were initially resistant to contact of any kind, can't imagine not having each other in their lives.
This book is about the connection between birth families and adoptive families, what happens when that connection is acknowledged openly, and how to nurture the relationship that develops over time as a result. This book will help you develop realistic expectations of this unique relationship and will show how you can nurture it by utilizing the interpersonal skills you already have.
Most important, though, this book will help you understand the relationship between you and your child. It will help you understand how your child benefits from seeing the healthy adult relationships around him or her. And when you finish this book, you will have a better idea of what your child needs from each relationship, and how you can help provide for your child's emotional health
In preparing this book, we have drawn on the experiences of real people to help you know what to expect as your relationship unfolds and how other people have handled the unexpected. Sharon Kaplan Roszia, M.S., was among the first professionals to advocate for open adoption and has counseled more than a thousand families in open adoption. And as the mother of children by birth, adoption, and long-term foster care
, she has had a great deal of experience in her own family with children who have contact with birth relatives.
Lois Ruskai Melina has listened to the concerns of hundreds of families in open adoption as she has traveled and lectured throughout the country, and is the mother of two children by adoption.
The Open Adoption Experience also reflects our interviews with adoption professionals working in open adoptions as well as our extensive surveys of adoptive and birth families involved in open adoptions all over the United States. The responses to our questionnaires reflected a wide degree of comfort with openness, and as we compared research results, observations of adoption professionals, psychological theories, interviews with adoptees and birth parents, and our own experiences, we were able to identify many of the common concerns about open adoptions, as well as the attitudes, approaches, parenting techniques, and interpersonal skills that contribute to the happiest, most successful open adoptions.
The examples given in this book are drawn from those questionnaires and personal interviews with families. In all cases, names have been changed, and in many cases, identifying details have been altered. Some examples are composites of several different families. However, they all reflect real situations and feelings.
As we wrote this book, we deliberately did not separate material dealing with birth parents from that pertaining to adoptive parents. We believe your relationship will benefit if you each have an understanding of the other's concerns. Furthermore, you have many issues in common. Consequently, when we address the reader directly, the information is pertinent to both birth and adoptive families. In other situations, we clearly state whether we are referring to the birth or adoptive family. This is a copyrighted article, based on material first published in Adopted Child newsletter.
Credits: Lois Ruskai Melina and Sharon Kaplan Roszia